Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


If you have a medical flexible spending account, or FSA, one of the key year-end tasks you need to take care of this month is ensuring that you don't lose any of this tax-free money. Yes, some employers give workers a 2½-month grace period, until March 15, to use the prior year's FSA funds. Others let their workers roll over up to $500 left in their medical accounts. Both of those options are at the discretion of the companies offering the tax-favored benefit. A lot of companies, however, still just take advantage of the use it or lose it rule.... Read more →


I've never been a big shopper. So when the ability to virtually peruse shelves and racks came along, it was like a gift from heaven. I am not alone. Even folks who enjoy the in-store experience have been shifting to online shopping in recent years. Cyber Monday 2018 hit a new shopping record. You'd think that this burst of online shopping would be good for state tax departments, more of which are now getting additional sales tax money following this summer's 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. That ruling struck down the prior Quill nexus requirement... Read more →


Welcome to Part 8 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. Today we look at considerations of U.S. taxpayers living and working abroad. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. Where's the best place for the world's estimated 57 million expatriates? InterNation's latest annual Expat Insider Survey says it's... Read more →


If any of these expired tax breaks apply to you and they're not renewed by year's end, wait a bit to file your 2018 return next year. By delaying your filing until they're retroactively renewed, you'll save yourself additional hassles. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States was laid to rest today, marking the end of commemorations of his life and years of public service. The elder President Bush's death also brought the lame duck session of Congress to an almost complete halt, meaning that many measure lawmakers — particularly Republicans — had hoped to push through... Read more →


George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, lying in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday, Dec. 3. (Screenshot from C-SPAN video.) President George H.W. Bush, who passed away Nov. 30 at age 94 at his Houston home, will be honored today, Wednesday, Dec. 5, at a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral. The current President and First Lady, along with four others commanders-in-chief — the late 43rd president's son George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with their wives — are among the dignitaries from around the world who will be... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


Truman the cat guarding presents under the Christmas tree. (Photo by Shawn Kinkade via Flickr CC) Ho, Ho, Ho, Happy Holidays! December is here. Time to decorate and, most importantly, get cracking on those gift lists. If you're not into frantic, crowd-fighting, last-minute shopping trips, here are five easy tax-related gifts for just about everyone on your nice list, including yourself. 1. Give to your favorite charities. You're probably already well aware of this option, since nonprofits have been sending out year-end donation solicitations since Halloween. Their urgency can be forgiven a bit more this year because of the tax... Read more →


Are you an Instagram fan? I have an account, but it's not my go-to social media platform. That's not too surprising since, according to various data, I'm not part of the app's primary demographic. The digital marketing firm Omnicore says 59 percent of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram. The Internal Revenue Service has found other research that shows an even larger slice of young Instagrammers. The tax agency says more than 70 percent of U.S. young adults age 18 to 24 are active on the photo and video sharing app. And since young people... Read more →


It's Dec. 1. That means we have to wait just 24 days until we can unwrap our presents, or 23 if you rip 'em open on Christmas Eve. It's also the first day in six months that we haven't been counting down the annual Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled the above video that compresses Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) East satellite imagery of the entire six-plus-month season (yes, it started early again this year) into one minute. NOAA's YouTube presentation also gets this week's special video Saturday Shout Out. A secondary shout... Read more →


No vote in the House this week on the Republican effort to pass more tax legislation before the GOP surrenders control of the chamber to Democrats at the start of the new January 2019 Congressional session. Are you waiting around this Friday to see whether the House will pass the GOP's package of tax extenders, some Tax Reform 2.0 proposal and corrections to the now almost a year-old Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)? Don't. Go ahead and call it a day and head out for an early first weekend of December. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin... Read more →


North Carolina flooding in the wake of extensive hurricane rains. Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency A bill that would extend some expired tax laws, enact a handful of new ones and correct some errors in last year's tax reform bill is now before the House of Representatives. The extensive and expensive — the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will add another $55 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years — measure has a decent chance of clearing the House, where all it needs is the votes of the Republicans who control that chamber. Its chances in... Read more →


No messy splash back in fueling a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle outside a Go Forth showroom in Portland, Oregon. It's that not very jolly time of year in Washington, D.C. Representatives and Senators are back in town for a few weeks to wrap up necessary legislation before heading home for the holidays. Political fights ensue. The session drags on until it's nearly Christmas. Or after. Members of Congress and staff stuck at work instead of making merry with family and friends and not happy. Neither are taxpayers who are wondering what literal year-end changes to tax laws lawmakers will make,... Read more →


Did you get all your shopping done on Cyber Monday? A lot of us did. Adobe, which tracks the multitude of transactions among major U.S. retailers, projects that online sales this Cyber Monday will be $7.8 billion. That's an 18.3 percent increase from the $6.6 billion spent last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving. If that figure is reached (or bettered), it would make Cyber Monday the highest-selling day of the 2018 holiday season. Those sales amounts seem to support the argument made by online sales tax advocates that the levies wouldn't materially deter cyber shoppers. Court opens door for... Read more →


In just more than a month we'll welcome 2019 and begin the first tax filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Are you worried yet? Not to be too pessimistic, but tax law changes always produce some unintended consequences. Some are caught beforehand, usually by the tax community that raises questions and pushes for law changes or at least Internal Revenue Service regulatory clarifications. That process is still on going for many TCJA provisions, but one group of taxpayers now is breathing a bit easier. The Treasury Department and the IRS have issued proposed regulations that will... Read more →


Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr The billions of holiday shoppers who head for their electronic devices instead of malls are well aware of the precautions they need to take as they pick perfect gifts from websites. This year, everyone also needs to be on alert for tax crooks who've joined this annual online crime wave. Specifically, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners warn that they've recently seen a surge of fraudulent emails where the sender impersonates the IRS and uses tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.... Read more →


Have you stopped by your locally-owned shops today to show some Small Business Saturday support? This specially designated holiday shopping day was initiated by a major credit card, American Express, in 2010 as a way to encourage shoppers to encourage Black Friday bargain hunters to expand their buying to small, local retailers. The next year the Shop Small movement had gained enough momentum to receive boosts from all 50 state and many local officials, as well as nationally. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day. And this year, New Mexico lawmakers have gone even further... Read more →